Prodrive is a well known name in Motorsport and has a landmark headquarters on the M40 between Oxford and Birmingham. But what's it like on the inside? We catch up with Becky Manton, one of the Advanced Technology division's recent intake of Graduates to find out.
What attracted you to a career in Engineering?
I started competing in hill-climbing and enjoyed discussing with other competitors (many of whom are engineers) what could be changed on the car (and why) to improve my time.
At the time I was working as a teacher and not enjoying it, so wanted to do something to do with what I enjoyed. I always enjoyed Maths and Physics at school, so Maths, plus Physics, plus Cars, led me to engineering.
What University did you study at and what course did you study? How does this relate to your work at Prodrive?
I studied Motorsport Engineering at the University of Wolverhampton and while most case studies and assignments were applied to motorsport situations, we had the majority of lectures with the mechanical engineering students.
I also worked on the Formula Student team in my second and third year. This gave ‘real-life’ situations of having to design to a deadline, design reviews and discussing with manufacturers. My course also gave me a good understanding of engineering principles which have been built on since I started at Prodrive.
Tell us in your own words about the Prodrive Graduate Scheme you’ve just joined?
All other graduate schemes I looked at were the standard two-year rotation type or months shadowing or being trained. During the interview it was explained that Prodrive is different to that and they have been true to their word!
On only my second day I started on a new special project in a team of three – the project lead, technical lead and me. From then on, I was trusted with designs that would be part of the end product for sale to the general public, touching base every couple of days with the technical lead to discuss designs.
I was also thrown straight into communicating and leading meetings with external companies that were collaborating on the project – something you probably wouldn’t get to do on other graduate schemes for a few months at least.
What is your role at Prodrive and what does it involve? What’s a typical day in your job?
I’m a graduate design engineer in the systems integration team. A typical day starts at 8:30 with half an hour checking emails, any team communication and planning what order to work on things that day. For the last couple of months I’ve been working with Josh, another Graduate Engineer, on a project, so during that half an hour we usually discuss what design tasks we have to do and divide these up between us.
After this, I spend most of the day doing design work in Catia, balancing my time between the two projects I’m currently working on. Sometimes I need to get some feedback on my designs from the Technicians so I’ll visit the workshop - where there’s always lots going on.
Every other week I also have a meeting with my Technical Mentor to discuss how I’m getting on.
What sort of projects do you get to work on?
As well as the special project I mentioned, I’ve also been working on the design of components to help speed up the manufacturing process of a hypercar electro-hydraulic system which is exciting because there’s such a quick turnaround on the parts you design.
What’s the most exciting part of your job at Prodrive?
Starting on live work straight away is daunting but it’s really exciting that you’re trusted to contribute straight away – and those contributions are actually listened to with the same weight as someone who’s been working in engineering for years. It’s also really cool when you see your designs in use. Plus it doesn’t hurt getting to see Prodrive’s heritage collection of Subarus and Aston Martins up close every day.
What attracted you to Prodrive Advanced Technology?
I knew of Prodrive from watching rallying when I was little but didn’t know much about the different departments before applying.
While applying I looked on the website and LinkedIn page and thought it was interesting that Advanced Technology worked across a wide range of sectors.
I also liked that Prodrive was looking into future based projects, electrification etc., and that I could have the opportunity to be part of that.
At the same time as my interview with Prodrive, I had two interviews with other companies, including one with an F1 team, and I decided during the interviews that if all three offered a job, Prodrive would be my first choice.
I found the whole interview process here to be more friendly and personal, from the first email through to my final interview. I liked that the design challenge for the interview allowed you to go away and think about it in your own time before presenting a solution, and that the discussion after my presentation felt more like a chat than being interviewed. When I had a tour after my interview the people I spoke to were really friendly and passionate.
Describe the culture at Prodrive Advanced Technology?
Everyone is really friendly. They know you’re just out of university and don’t expect you to know everything so there’s always someone willing to help you if you get stuck. There’s always lots going on in the office and in the workshop.
What makes working for Prodrive unique?
The range of projects you could be working on. I’ve worked on two projects so far which although they’ve been completely different to each other, you can still carry over the principles of what you’ve learned from one to the other. There’s also so many people to learn from at Prodrive, some of them have been here for many years, so you’re always learning something new.
Describe how your assigned Technical Mentor has helped you.
My technical mentor is Simon. I’ve been working with him from day one as we’re working on the same project. Although he’s really busy, working on multiple projects, he always has time for a chat about designs or technical stuff about the project. As well as these informal discussions we also have Technical Mentor meetings every other week to discuss how I’m getting on and what I want to focus on.
There is also a 'Buddy System' as part of the Graduate entry, can you describe how it helps someone new to Prodrive?
My buddy is Paul who also started as a graduate here a couple of years ago. Your buddy is someone you can ask random questions about general issues to without feeling awkward or feeling like you are bothering your manager.
It helps that I can easily ask such questions to get used to the company quickly.
Where do you see the Prodrive Graduate Scheme taking you and what would you like to do in the future?
At the moment, I’m enjoying getting used to Catia and doing CAD design. However, in the future, I’d like to do some Finite Element Analysis. Prodrive are quite open to how you want to develop yourself and have such a range of projects that you can move across different projects to get a broad experience or work on becoming a specialist, all with training provided.